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UK govt's 'wait & see' approach to AI regulation sparks row
Tue, 20th Feb 2024

The recent “wait and see” position adopted by the UK government in relation to artificial intelligence (AI) regulation has caused a stir among lawmakers in Westminster. The hesitancy shown by the government, despite warning of an 'existential threat' presented by AI, has led to mounting frustrations among MPs. The critics are concerned about the lack of urgency demonstrated towards AI regulation and the absence of stringent regulatory frameworks.

The government’s preferred path towards AI regulation is a decentralised model. This is designed to support existing regulators as opposed to creating a fresh regulatory body. The Prime Minister has positioned it as supportive of the UK's ambitions of becoming a global science and technology superpower. Lord Chris Holmes described the situation: "There's an increasing number of people and an increasing discussion around the need for right-sized, pro-innovation regulation." He emphasised the need for leadership, stating that the 'wait and see' approach should not be the government's response to the AI regulatory issue.

The first full debate on AI regulation by policymakers will occur during the second reading of the AI regulation bill in March. Following this, regulators including the Financial Conduct Authority, Bank of England, and Ofcom are expected to unveil their official stances on AI by the end of April. Henry Balani, Global Head of Industry and Regulatory Affairs at Encompass Corporation, highlighted the importance of collaboration between the government and industry in the development and strengthening of the UK's AI-specific regulatory framework.

Highlighting that AI holds significant potential within financial services, Balani said, "AI undoubtedly holds exciting potential. Within financial services, it has a role to play in accelerating existing processes and augmenting the work of Know Your Customer (KYC) analysts, for example, supporting faster and more comprehensive financial crime risk detection." He urged for the design of effective regulation that doesn't shackle innovation whilst ensuring the safe and effective utilization of technology.

Oseloka Obiora, CTO of RiverSafe, drew attention to growing cybersecurity risks associated with AI. The increasing interest of hackers in exploiting AI for data theft and disruption necessitates that the government adopts stringent regulatory frameworks for AI to safeguard against these threats. He suggested a balanced approach that mitigates cyber risks, whilst permitting businesses to continue to innovate.

The controversy over the government's stance on AI regulation comes in the wake of the first meeting of the AI Opportunity Forum, spearheaded by Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan and the Prime Minister's Special Adviser on Business and Investment. The purpose of this forum is to amplify the adoption and development of AI within the private sector, thereby unlocking new opportunities and enhancing productivity.